Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress are scheduled to meet with the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
The meeting, which is believed to be connected to last-minute efforts to ensure the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, clinches the party’s ticket for the forthcoming governorship election in the state, is scheduled to hold today (Sunday).
It was not clear if the governors’ emissaries would meet with the former Lagos governor at his Bourdillon residence in Ikoyi or it would be a virtual meeting.
A source privy to the development confided in one of our correspondents in Abuja on Saturday that the meeting was at the instance of the governors, noting that a delegation of the governors would meet with Tinubu to seek his intervention preparatory to further talks with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on the issue.
The source said, “The meeting with Tinubu is essentially to seek his intervention in the crisis rocking the party in Edo State. Part of the conditions being worked on, which the governor is expected to meet, is to swear in the remaining members of the state House Assembly who have yet to be sworn in.”
About a year after the Assembly was inaugurated, only 10 out of the 24 members of the Assembly had so far been sworn in. This is due to the crisis that surrounded the issuance of the proclamation of the Assembly by the governor.
In defence of the action, the governor claimed that those who had yet to assume office refused to be sworn in.
Talking about the peace move, a top-ranking party source said, “The train has since left the station. It is too late in the day to find a common ground on the Obaseki issue.
“We expect all aspirants (governorship) to go to the field to test their popularity. This is the language of democracy.”
Conversely, another party source said, “In politics, nothing is cast in stone. Old foes can become friends with the right incentives. After all, there are no permanent friends or enemies.”
One of the APC governors, who also spoke on the issue, told one of our correspondents that he and his colleagues would do whatever they could do to save Obaseki out of what he called the “gang up against one of us.”
He said the governors would not want Obaseki to be treated “as an outsider when those ganging up against him are not accusing him of non-performance.”
He added, “We will see what we can do to make things right. Whatever is in our power as progressive governors we would do in the interest of our party and in the interest of the people of Edo State. We may also see the President on the issue.”
Asked if the direct primary election sanctioned by the party at the national level was not meant to swing the result of the governorship primary against Obaseki, the source said “we shall see.”
Notwithstanding, the party’s National Organising Secretary, Emma Ibidiro, has continued to assure all aspirants that the party will ensure that everyone is treated fairly.
He said, “The APC is a party that is given to observing the rule of law, our constitution and the guidelines in all our activities and I want to assure the aspirants that this party will offer every aspirant the level playing ground.
“I want to assure you that contrary to what people may think, I am very optimistic that the forthcoming primary will prove this party as a party that will be fair to all concerned.”
Also, the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, expressed confidence that the party would come out stronger after its primary in Edo State.
“True democracy demands the involvement of citizens in decision making. For us as a political party, we will continue to give all our members a voice.
“Edo is an APC state and we intend to keep it so with the support of Edo citizens and residents who will be voting in that election. Our primary is an internal party business, we will ensure justice and fairness to all. “
A few days ago, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who recently defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the APC, had announced himself as the consensus candidate chosen by seven APC aspirants. He made the announcement while speaking to journalists after collecting his expression of interest and nomination forms at the APC National Headquarters last week.
“I am happy to announce that at the end of the day, I was chosen amongst this formidable group,” Ize-Iyamu said.
The PUNCH had exclusively reported the outcome of the party’s National Working Committee meeting where it was agreed that the direct mode of primary would be used to select the party’s candidate on June 22.
Political watchers are of the opinion that the NWC led by the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is supporting Ize-Iyamu.
Oshiomhole, who handed over to Obaseki as the governor of Edo State, has been at loggerheads with his successor over political issues in the state.
Both men had on many occasions accused each other of planning to cause crisis in the state.
Oshiomhole had accused Obaseki and a few governors of teaming up to remove him as the national chairman of the ruling party until the intervention of the President some months ago.
President Buhari stopped the aggrieved members of the party, which included some ministers, governors and members of the NWC from conveying the party’s National Executive Committee meeting where Oshiomhole was meant to be sacked.
Meanwhile, Sunday PUNCH investigations had revealed that both the APC and the PDP had made N130.5m from the sale of nomination and expression of interest forms to aspirants who were interested in contesting the primary.
The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, at a briefing at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja on February 5 said the commission had fixed September 19 for the governorship election in Edo State.
Out of the N130.5m, while APC raked in N67.5m from the sale of three sets of expression of interest and nomination forms, the PDP, which also has three aspirants, made N63m.
For the APC, the amount was realised from the N22.5m paid each by the three aspirants who have so far bought the forms as at the close of business on Friday. Those who have so far collected the forms include: Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Governor Godwin Obaseki.
National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Kola Ologbondiyan, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said three aspirants had purchased forms to contest the party’s primary.
The party extended the sale of its forms from last Friday to Monday (tomorrow).
it was learnt that the move might not be unconnected with the need to accommodate aggrieved members of the APC who might be considering defecting to the PDP.
“We have strong candidates for the election. Already, three aspirants have picked our forms. The primary is going to be free, fair and transparent. The NWC of the PDP under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus has no room for manipulation of primary. The people themselves will deliver the candidate of their choice through their votes.
“There will be no room for imposition of candidate. We are even ready to sell our forms to those who have yet to join us. We are not foreclosing the issue of waivers,’’ he added.
Nehihkare also stated that the party’s chances in the election were not dependent on the crisis in the APC, adding that “our process is always the indirect primary. We will have an election for delegates first before the delegates will choose who our candidate will be.
“Our strength is not in the weakness of our opponent but in the message of development we are sending to the electorate that we will do better; we are not like the APC.”
INEC on Saturday said the bye-elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau states would take place despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The commission also said it had been studying reports of elections conducted in countries like Mali and South Korea to strengthen its preparations for the forthcoming elections in Nigeria.
The chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, stated these during the first virtual meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners in Abuja against the background of the global health challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the event, he also announced that 6,454,950 registered voters had been scheduled to partake in the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively, in addition to other bye-elections.
Other bye elections, according to INEC, included the five senatorial and four state Assembly bye-elections spread across nine states of the federation.
The commission said all the elections involved a cumulative number of 62 local government areas; 687 Registration Areas; 9,149 polling units and 6,454,950 registered voters.
He explained that the pandemic had disrupted the commission’s activities, including its engagement with the National Assembly and stakeholders on electoral reform as well as the conduct of some off-season elections that had to be suspended because of the pandemic.
He added, “The end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10 respectively will proceed as planned. Already, some of the political parties have notified the commission of the dates for their party primaries.”
he said health authorities had advised on measures to protect the public from the virus, including all those involved in the elections.
“In addition to the two governorship elections, the commission is also making preparations to conduct nine legislative bye-elections. Already, vacancies have been declared by the Senate President in respect of four senatorial districts (Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa East, Imo North and Plateau South).
“Similarly, the Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly has declared the seat for Nasarawa Central state constituency vacant. Information reaching the commission also indicates the existence of vacancies for the Cross River North Senatorial District, Nganzai and Bayo state constituencies of Borno State and Bakori state constituency of Katsina State.”
Yakubu also revealed that the commission was determined to hold some of the bye-elections before the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states to enable INEC “to do a test-run and fine-tune our modified processes in view of the COVID – 19 pandemic.”